Walking east past the apartments, on my way to the library, I relished the day: low 70s, a brilliant blue sky, scudding white clouds. When I’d seen the mountains that morning, the high country gleamed with bright first snow, an autumn sight that always thrills me. A black woman sat on the apartment steps, red streaks in her hair. We smiled at each other as I passed.
“Beautiful day,” she said.
Past her already, I turned to agree.
There to the west, the entire Front Range had disappeared, smothered by an impressively dark blue-gray cloud, looming our way.
“Yes,” I replied, “but looks like it could change.”
She glanced in the direction of my nod. “Beautiful day,” she repeated, grinning, “so long as we don’t look behind us.”
It was the first of October. I was glad to leave September behind me.
Half an hour after that conversation, clouds had eaten the sun, and swallowed the last bit of blue sky. The wind picked up. Back from the library, I turned on lights. The bright house I left had become gloomy and chilled. Snow above 9,000 feet, rain down here in the city, where trees are still in green leaf.
Bad news comes in flurries. In a recent post, I said everything happens at once. But that was about being too busy. In the month of September we suffered the sudden death of a friend, hit by a car while riding her bike. Diagnoses of cancer in two more. Worsening diabetes in a fourth, COPD in another. Two other friends endure serious consequences of falls: broken shoulder, shattered ribs. A young man, my student years ago, committed suicide.
Yet, at times like this the generosity of the human race is revealed. Friends and family bring plates and pots of food to the bereaved, make sure he is not alone unless he wants to be. They come to hug, hold hands, tell stories and cry together.
At times like this the courage of the human race is revealed. A friend enters palliative care, chooses to announce that decision, urges us to recognize the importance of planning our deaths, sets an example for us.
At the scene of the accident, people stopped, called 911. Though she was just passing and could have kept going, a nurse ran to help our friend, unconscious on the street. Afterwards strangers left flowers at the intersection. Such acts as these let me focus on the bright day instead of the storm clouds that eventually touch us all. As my neighbor said, where you look is a choice.
Read this as a prayer, for those we’ve just lost and those we may soon lose, for those beginning or continuing difficult medical journeys and those who could not continue living and those beginning to learn how to live without the beloved, taken so soon. This is a prayer to whatever name you give to higher being, for I know there are several such names among you, and a prayer in any name is a blessing.
Early Sunday morning, October 5. Transparent skies, trees hold their breath, the faintest dip of a leaf. Phil made banana pecan pancakes and afterwards we take our coffee to the front porch to watch the 15K go by. First come the serious runners, with their long, easy strides. Later, slow joggers, fast walkers, some of whom seem to be in pain. But they keep going. The morning is hushed. From the porch I hear soft footfalls of neon running shoes and, sometimes, panting breath. The race, as always, is a fundraiser, this one for the Ronald McDonald House. By the time I’ve done the dishes, stragglers struggle up the block, looking anxiously at their watches. It has taken more than an hour for the last runners to trickle past. Generations younger than me, these hundreds spend Sunday doing good for themselves and our world, jogging past with no idea how they give me hope. Read this as a prayer for them too, of thanks and praise.